Civility or censorship? Candidates bash Dayton schools’ request

Dayton Public Schools is facing criticism for trying to steer tonight’s school board candidate forum away from “bashing” of Superintendent Rhonda Corr, current school board members or fellow candidates.

DPS spokeswoman Marsha Bonhart sent an email Sunday night to the eight candidates running for four seats on the school board. It was a follow-up on earlier communications about the Dayton Education Council candidate forum scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. today at DPS’ Ponitz Career Technology Center.

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Bonhart’s email said, “It is very important that we keep this forum civil.” She continued, “We ask that you not participate in or instigate any ‘bashing’ of Superintendent Corr, Dayton school board members, or each other. Please stay focused on providing quality answers to all of the questions.”

School board candidate Jocelyn Rhynard sent a letter to Corr on Tuesday, saying she thought the event “was to be an opportunity for the candidates for Dayton school board to participate in a free and open exchange of views.”

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“I am shocked that the office of the superintendent would attempt to prohibit the candidates for the school board from speaking our minds regarding the important issues facing our community, including your performance as superintendent of Dayton Public Schools and the performance of the current school board,” Rhynard’s letter said.

She called it a “highly inappropriate” insertion of Corr’s office into the political process and asked her to retract Bonhart’s request and issue an apology.

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Bonhart said her focus was merely on the term “bashing.”

“I was just trying to maintain an atmosphere of civility,” she said. “I was not trying to steer the conversation.”

Candidate Paul Bradley said the four-candidate “slate” of himself, Mohamed Al-Hamdani, William Harris and Karen Wick-Gagnet had also discussed Bonhart’s email.

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“It is kind of disappointing way letter was worded, given that it was coming from a DPS director,” Bradley said. “It felt like it was somewhat trying to influence the temperament of the discourse that’s going to happen, and I don’t think that’s appropriate.”

The other candidates for school board are incumbent Joe Lacey, former board member Ann Marie “Mario” Gallin, and former DPS teacher and administrator Jo’el Jones.

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